Desperation and Survival

sonder

I have often wondered how the Sonderkommandos coped with their  work.

Sonderkommandos were the were forced labour units made up of  Nazi death camp prisoners. usually Jews.They were forced to help with the disposal of gas chamber victims among other duties. Sometimes even removing family members.

It is not like they had a choice, it was either work and have a chance to survive or get killed themselves. I have heard people call them traitors but I don’t subscribe to that point of view, The basic instinct of any human being is to survive.

How hard it was for these victims, for they to were victims, is illustrated in the testimony of Filip Müller, a Slovak Jewish member of the Sonderkommando.

Muller

Filip had become so desperate that he tried to commit suicide by smuggling himself into the gas chamber.

Below are some excerpts from his testimony taken from his book ‘ Eyewitness Auschwitz: Three Years in the Gas Chambers’

“In the great confusion near the door I managed to mingle with the pushing and shoving crowd of people who were being driven into the gas chamber. Quickly I ran to the back and stood behind one of the concrete pillars. I thought that here I would remain undiscovered until the gas chamber was full, when it would be locked. Until then I must try to remain unnoticed. I was overcome by a feeling of indifference: everything had become meaningless. Even the thought of a painful death from Zyklon B gas, whose effect I of all people knew only too well, no longer filled me with fear and horror. I faced my fate with composure.Eyewitness

Inside the gas chamber the singing had stopped. Now there was only weeping and sobbing. People, their faces smashed and bleeding, were still streaming through the door, driven by blows and goaded by vicious dogs. Desperate children who had become separated from their parents in the scramble were rushing around calling for them. All at once, a small boy was standing before me. He looked at me curiously; perhaps he had noticed me there at the back standing all by myself. Then, his little face puckered with worry, he asked timidly: “Do you know where my mummy and my daddy are hiding?” I tried to comfort him, explaining that his parents were sure to be among all those people milling round in the front part of the room. “You run along there,” I told him, “and they’ll be waiting for you, you’ll see.”

The only reason he survived is because he was approached by a few girls.

“Suddenly a few girls, naked and in the full bloom of youth, came up to me. They stood in front of me without a word, gazing at me deep in thought and shaking their heads uncomprehendingly. At last one of them plucked up courage and spoke to me: “We understand that you have chosen to die with us of your own free will, and we have come to tell you that we think your decision pointless: for it helps no one.” She went on: “We must die, but you still have a chance to save your life. You have to return to the camp, and tell everybody about our last hours,” she commanded. “You have to explain to them that they must free themselves from any illusions. They ought to fight, that’s better than dying here helplessly. It’ll be easier for them, since they have no children. As for you, perhaps you’ll survive this terrible tragedy and then you must tell everybody what happened to you. One more thing,” she went on, “you can do me one last favour: this gold chain around my neck: when I’m dead, take it off and give it to my boyfriend Sasha. He works in the bakery. Remember me to him. Say ‘love from Yana.’ When it’s all over, you’ll find me here.” She pointed at a place next to the concrete pillar where I was standing. Those were her last words.”

Burning bodies

Müller first testified during his recovery in a post-liberation hospital and subsequently in several trials. His testimonies were included in “The Death Factory” written by two fellow Holocaust survivors, Erich Kulka and Ota Kraus. He was also interviewed for the 1985 French documentary Shoah by Claude Lanzmann, who himself had been a Holocaust survivor and French resistance fighter.

Müller died on November 9, 2013. In my opinion there is only one word to describe him. Hero.

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The Fighting Girlfriend

tank

Your husband goes off to war and gets killed in battle. What do you do?

Well like any other wife you would sell all your belongings and with the money earned from that sale, you go an acquire a tank, to take revenge.

It sounds like a great plot for a revenge movie directed by Quentin Tarantino perhaps, However this is exactly what Mariya Oktyabrskaya did.

Her husband was killed fighting the Germans in Kiev in 1941. Mariya only found out 2 years later.The news enraged her and she was determined to take revenge. In order to do this she sold everything she had, and then went straight to the chief himself, Stalin. She wrote him the following letter.

“My husband was killed in action defending the motherland. I want revenge on the fascist dogs for his death and for the death of Soviet people tortured by the fascist barbarians. For this purpose, I’ve deposited all my personal savings–50,000 rubles–to the National Bank in order to build a tank. I kindly ask to name the tank ‘Fighting Girlfriend’ and to send me to the front line as a driver of the said tank.”

Stalin had no choice but to agree. The propaganda value would be priceless and it would provide for a much needed boost to the morale. With Mariya’s money a T 34 tank was bought.

t 34

Mariya received 5 months of training, which was uncommon because usually tank crews were rushed straight to the front line with minimal training.

After the training she was assigned to the 26th Guards Tank Brigade in September 1943, where she soon took part in the Second Battle of Smolensk.

smolensk

Although other tank crews regarded her as some kind of publicity stunt, she got the chance to prove them wrong.

During her first battle, Oktobskaya showed some excellent tank handling skills and helped in destroying machine gun nests and artillery positions. Whilst under heavy fire, her tank, “The Fighting Girlfriend,” drove  through enemy lines, but was badly damaged in the process.

damaged t 34

Oktyabrskaya, disregarded orders, leaped out of her tank and fixed the tank, amidst heavy fire. Because of  this feat she was promoted to the rank of Sergeant.

Her last battle was on 17 January 1944, she fought in another night attack as part of the Leningrad–Novgorod Offensive. It would  be her last.

nov len

The attack took place at the village of Shvedy near Vitebsk. She neutralized resistance in trenches and machine-gun nests with her Fighting Girlfriend. and she and her crew  also destroyed a German self-propelled gun. Subsequently, the tank was hit by a German anti-tank shell,and  the tank once again suffered damage , Oktobrskaya tried to pull the trick once again. She managed to repair the damaged track but was hit in the head by shell fragments and lost consciousness.

She was transported to a Soviet military field hospital at Fastov, near Kiev, where she stayed  in a coma for two months, before finally succumbing to her injuries / She died on the 15th of  March 1944. In August that year, she  was posthumously made a Hero of the Soviet Union.

Mariya

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Source

Vintage News

 

Creating the conditions for the Holocaust

stab.JPG

Nowadays it is very easy to blame social media for widely distributing fake news on a large scale by means of memes and other ways. However this is nothing new, about 100 years ago this was happening through way of propaganda postcards and cartoons(after all a meme is nothing else then a digital propaganda or satirical postcard or cartoon) spread via post or newspapers.

Long before Hitler came to power, German politicians like Friedrich Ebert already blamed  communists,socialists and especially the Jews for losing WWI, by creating the ‘stab in the back’ myth.

The stab-in-the-back myth was believed despite even though it was entirely false .German Jews had loyally and bravely served in the German army during WWII. In fact their numbers were out of proportion in ratio to their numbers in the population. A fact that was emphasized by the “Reich Federation of Jewish Front Soldiers”

Soldiers

Several myths  were deliberately propagated alongside older prejudices. Myths such as:

  • The Jews had started the war to bring Europe to financial ruin and to bring it under Jewish control.
  • Jews exploited the misery of the war to enrich themselves and prolonged it to lead the Bolshevik Revolution in furthering the aim of world revolution.

These myths were enhanced by propaganda postcards and cartoons.

stab in the back

3

The origin of the term “stab-in-the-back” itself can possibly attributed to General Erich Ludendorff and dated to the autumn of 1919. Ludendorff was having dinere with the head of the British Military Mission in Berlin,  General Sir Neill Malcolm. Malcolm asked Ludendorff why he thought Germany lost the war. Ludendorff replied with his list of excuses, including that the home front failed the army.

Malcolm asked him: “Do you mean, General, that you were stabbed in the back?” Ludendorff’s eyes lit up and he leaped upon the phrase like a dog on a bone. “Stabbed in the back?” he repeated. “Yes, that’s it, exactly, we were stabbed in the back”.

Conservatives, nationalists and ex-military leaders began to speak critically about the peace and Weimar politicians, socialists, communists and especially Jews, It was suggested that they had not been supportive during the war and had played a part in selling out Germany to its enemies.

stab 4

By the time the Nazis came to power the foundations had already been laid.

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Sources

Encyclopedia 1914-1918

USHMM

 

Mein Kampf -the sequel.

kampf

This may surprise some of you, but I have actually read Mein Kampf. Well at least part of it, I gave up halfway through basically because it was boring. I recognized it for what it was, the ramblings of a delusional failed artist.

Mein Kampf was published on July 18, 1925 by Eher-Verlag publishin house in Munich. Eher-Verlag had actually been acquired by the NSDAP in 1920.

What many people are not aware of is that Hitler did write a ‘sequel’ to “Mein Kampf”. It was called “Zweites Buch” or in English “Second Book”. He wrote it in 1928 but was not published in his life time. Eher Verlag had advised against it since “Mein Kampf” had not sold very well. Mein Kampf really only became a ‘success’ after he got to power and everyone was more or less forced to buy it

2

While his first book was really about his plans for Germany and his hate for Jews and how he was going to make Germany great again. His second book went more into his foreign policies. along his hate mongering against the Jews . Below is the list of the chapters

War and Peace
The Necessity of Strife
Race and Will in the Struggle for Power
Elements of Foreign Policy
National Socialist Foreign Policy
German Needs and Aims
Policies of the Second Reich
Military Power and Fallacy of Border Restoration as Goal
Hopelessness of an Economic Situation
On Necessity for an Active Foreign Policy
Germany and Russia
German Foreign Policy
German Goals
England as an Ally
Italy as an Ally
Summary

In summer 1928 Hitlet had dictated the book to his long time friend Max Amann

max

A copy of the manuscript stayed in the vaults of Eher Verlag, and was discovered in 1945 by the US Army.

There have been many attempts to publish the book. But in 1961 a German version was published. Historian Gerhard L Weinberg discovered the manuscript in 1958.He was born in Hannover but when he was still a kid he and his parents emigrated to the US in 1938, to escape persecution.

It would take to 2003 before the first reliable English version would be published. In an interview with the Guardian , Gerhard L Weinberg stated in relation why the book should be published.

“I believe it’s critical for a work by a central historical figure, even Hitler, to be publicly accessible. The book gives an untouched window into Hitler’s views at the time. It also shows his character as a politician. He had just done badly in an election, yet his reaction was not to soft-pedal the party’s position on a critical issue. No, he insisted that he was correct all along and tried to cast himself as supremely wise, while all critics were knaves and fools.

I believe that it’s also important to have the book available in English in a way that accurately reflects the original German and is properly annotated, especially for terms, names and references that might be unclear to many readers.”

weinberg

I do tend to agree with him,because I do believe it is important to have an insight(as far as it’s possible” in the mind of undoubtedly the most evil man that has ever lived.

However I am not sure if I will read it.

2book

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Do you sleep at night?

cohen

Do you sleep at night, knowing what you did to me?

Does your conscience bother you?

Do you have a soul? And if you do how could you do what you did?

Do you have children of your own? Or do you have nieces or nephews?

Would you kill them?

We both know you wouldn’t because they are innocent.

Well so was I , but yet that didn’t stop you.

Were you just carrying out orders?

Or did you enjoy taking my life?

I am Janine Onijas and was killed on August 19,1942 aged 8. Murdered in Auschwitz.

Do you sleep at night?

A destructive beauty.

boom

On July 16,1945,at 5:29 a.m the world witnessed a beautiful yet devastating event. When I say world I really mean only a select few. What they witnessed was the first ever nuclear test, designated the ‘Trinity Test’ it was part of the Manhattan Project.

The bomb that was detonated was ‘the gadget’.

gadget

Although we all know how devastating a nuclear device can be, there is something beautiful about it. Don’t get me wrong I don’t like nukes but the direct aftermath of the explosion does display a beautiful fireball and cloud.

The expanding fireball and shockwave of the Trinity test explosion, seen .025 seconds after detonation on July 16, 1945. It nearly looks like a perfect sphere.

0.025

The evolution of the Trinity fireball over the first 9 seconds, with the Empire State Building for scale. Image by Alex Wellerstein.

empire

The evolution of the Trinity fireball over the first 9 seconds, with the Empire State Building for scale. Image by Alex Wellerstein.

The fireball of the conventional explosion was visible from Alamogordo Army Air Field 60 miles (97 km) away, but there was little shock at the base camp 10 miles (16 km) away.

A few weeks after the Trinity test the US Army Airforce would drop 2 nuclear bombs on Japan,, Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

 

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Source

Rare historical Photos

 

The Children of Castle Hoensbroek

Kinderen Hoesnbroek

I came across the above picture a few years ago and the information I got with it is that the children in the picture were orphans, staying with the nuns in Castle Hoensbroek, in Limburg .the south east of the Netherlands

However all the children had been placed under guardianship. They originally came from a town in North-Holland called Velsen where they had been students of a boarding school ,run by Nuns.

In October 1942 the German occupiers had ordered the boarding school to be evacuated, for it was going to be demolished. The Germans were going to build a 5 km long defense line and the boarding school was in the way.

Frantically the nuns looked for an alternative accommodation. They were offered the castle Hoensbroek in December 1942. They moved in on December 23 just in time for the Christmas celebrations. The distance between Velsen and Hoensbroek is about 200km. For the children that must have felt like moving to the other side of the world.

Hoensbroek

The children lived a relatively undisturbed live in the castle. Several times it had been declared unsuitable for the Germany army. However a few days before liberation there were a few nervous moments.

Kinderen

Some SS men on leave. had stayed in the adjacent farm and had been throwing hand grenades in the canals surrounding the castle, just for fun. They had also been walking around naked.

On September 12, 1944 a highly placed SS officer had visited the castle for inspection, he was told there was no room. His reply was not too worry about that, the SS would make some room, while he was looking around at the yard where the children were playing at  the time.But he left.

The following day another highly placed SS officer,with a limp, came to the castle but he too left.

On September 17, 1944 Hoensbroek was liberated by the allied forces. As a part of the celebrations the children were dressed up in the traditional clothing of the Velsen-Volendam region. The pictures taken were send to the US to show the people there that the troops had arrived in the Netherlands.

klederdracht

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Batman fighting the Japanese in WWII

Batman

When we think of the first TV screening of Batman we automatically think of the 1966 TV series when Adam West took on the role as the caped crusader. However it was the actor Lewis Wilson who first portrayed the Batman on the TV screens.

This day 75 years ago, July 16 1943, the Batman made his first TV appearance.

show

The series from Columbia pictures  consisted of 15 episodes and were produced  by Rudolph C. Flothow, directed by Lambert Hillyer.

They were really Wartime propaganda movies.

The Batman/Bruce Wayne , and his side kick, Robin/Dick Grayson ,played by Douglas Croft, are  secret government agents following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

batman and robin

The city is still Gotham city but there is no Bat mobile but there are however bats in the Bat cave, The duo do not fight any of the villains we know from the comics and the newer Batman movies. No Joker or Riddler but instead Dr. Daka,  aJapanese mastermind of a wartime espionage-sabotage group.

Dr Daka has a death ray which is powered by radium and can pulverize walls but can also turn normal men into electronic zombies and do the work for Dr Daka.

daka

Funny enough Dr Daka is played by J. Carrol Naish  a New York born Irish-American actor.

The titles of the episodes were:  1. The Electrical Brain; 2. The Bat’s Cave; 3. The Mark of the Zombies; 4. Slaves of the Rising Sun; 5. The Living Corpse; 6. Poison Peril; 7. The Phony Doctor; 8. Lured by Radium; 9. The Sign of the Sphinx; 10. Flying Spies; 11. Nipponese Trap; 12. Embers of Evil; 13. Eight Steps Down; 14. The Executioner Strikes; 15. The Doom of the Rising Sun.

cave

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Sources

IMDB

 

Boycotting Jewish Businesses

boycott

Although tempted to join the debate on the current call to boycott goods from Israel, I am not going to join. I rather stick to what I know best, history. .

On April 1, 1933, the Nazis in Germany began with the boycott of Jewish businesses. They claimed it was a retaliation to the calls of boycott on German goods by foreign critics of the Nazi Party.

German

In reality the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses was part of the early measures for eventual eradication of the Jews.

Below are just a few examples of those boycotts, they were OFTEN accompanIed by the SA or SS.

“Germans protect yourselves, don’y buy Jewish”

1

Outside a Wohlwert shop “The battle against department stores”

2

“Germans don’t but from Jews”

3

Boycott poster , announcing the boycott of all Jewish businesses signed by Adolf Hitler and Paul von Hindenburg on behalf of the German people.

4

 

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The Ravensbrück Rabbits

Rabbitts

The Ravensbrück Rabbits was the name given to 74 Polish women, who were subjected to medical experiments in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Of the 74 women, 5 died as a result of the experiments and 6 other victims whose wounds did not heal were executed. The other survived with permanent damage.

Rather then go through all 74 accounts I am focusing on the account of one sirvivor,Jadwiga Kaminska. below is the translation of her affidavit submitted to the Nuremberg trials.

Rabbis

“I, Jadwiga Kaminska, 24 Avenue de 1’Yser, Brussels, make oath and state as follows:

“I was arrested on 18 March 1941 and arrived in Ravensbruck on 27 September 1941 and left the camp on the 16 April 1946.

“I was twice operated on during my stay in the camp. The first time was August 15, 1942, in the second group of prisoners to be operated on; the following were operated on with me: Kormanska, Zofia; Kaminska, Zofia; Karolewska, Vladyslava; Jurkowska, Alicia; Karwacka, Ursula; Iwanska, Yanina; Iwanska, Krystyna; Karesman, Muria.

“In the morning of the same day we were operated on we were all sent to the Revier not knowing what was to happen to us. Five of us were sent to one room and the two Inwanska sisters and Karwacka to another. On arrival we all had baths and were given small hospital shirts and blouses. We had no medical examination and were given nothing to eat. When they were taking me to the operating theatre I fought to keep out but was held down by the nurse Ericka and two owner nurses in the corridor whilst Dr. Rosentahl gave me an anaesthetic by injection in my arm.

Dr Rose

Just before I had the injection I saw Gebhardt in the corridor and I also recognize him on No. 3 in the group of photographs. I also saw Dr. Oberhauser going into the Operating theatre. When I came round, I found that all of us had been operated on and that my right leg was in plaster up to the knee, three days later I was taken to the Dressing Room and my face was covered with a sheet so that I could not see what going on, I recognized the voices of Oberhauser, Rosenthal, Schidlauski and there were several others there whose voices I did not recognize. I heard another Doctor who I believe removed plaster ask for instruments.

“Immediately after the operation I had a temperature of 39 degree, the first week after the operation it varied between 38 and 39. When I was sent back to my block three weeks after the operation I still had some fever and felt very weak.

After the first operation Gebhardt came into the room where I was having my dressing changed with several other doctors and talked about the operations and said they were “Military Operations”. I recognized Gebhardt when he came into the room.

Gebbhardy

“About a week after my first operation Rosenthal came into our room drunk. We asked him why we had been operated on, he answered “because you are young girls and Polish Patriots.” Oberhauser was also asked the same question She answered that the operation had been ordered by the Gestapo. Dr. Fischer advised us to ask the Senior Doctor, Schidlausky, why we had been operated on, but after that we never saw Schidlausky again.

“I was in great pain after the operation, the first two days we were offered a medicine but refused to take it after which we were offered nothing.

“About a week after the operation I first saw my wound which was about 10 cms. long and 5 cms. wide and full of green pus and very inflamed. It is now 10 cms. long and about 3 cms. in width.

“Thee days after my first dressing the second one was done under similar circumstances as the first, but I managed to pull the sheet off my face for a few seconds and saw Dr. Fischer who was doing my dressing.

“I was operated on the second time on 13 September 1942, with five others who were: Wojtaski, Wanda; Rakowska, Pelagia; Gnas, Maria; Kaminska, Jadwiga; Karolewska, Vladislava,; Karwacka, Ursula.

“The day before the operation I was again put in the Revier and had a bath and then salt compresses were put on my wound by the nurse Wricke and another nurse. Before the second operation I was given something to drink which made we sleep and consequently knew no details of the operation.

“When I came to from this operation I had much more fever than the first time; we were given something to drink three times a day to alleviate the pain but it had little effect; in the evening, however, Oberhauser gave us morphine injections. We were not in plaster after the second operation. The first two times my dressings were changed by Dr. Fischer and afterwards by Schidlausky and Oberhauser and also by SS nurses.

“After my second operation I stayed in the Revier three months, during all that time I had fever and felt very weak and I was given no care.

“When I left the Revier three months after that operation my fever had almost gone but my wound was still open. Before I left the Revier Oberhauser had a look at my wound, and said I was fit to go. In March 1943 my leg was still discharging pus.

“In February 1945 the order came out that all of us who had been operated on were to remain in our blocks. We knew this meant we were to be liquidated.

“I went to the bureau and spoke to Binz and Swarzhuber; they told me that as we were still weak we would be transferred to the Gresrosen camp. I said that was not true but that we should be shot in the camp without being transferred.

“I demanded of Swarzhuber that I saw Suhren; he said it was impossible. After a few days, however, I saw Suhren and told him that we would rather be killed in the camp than at Grossrosen. Suhren said he would do everything in his power to save us.

“My leg is new healed but gets tired very quickly and during the last three months I have had intermittent fever which my doctor tells me is due to recurrence of infection in my leg and also the glands in my right groin have become swollen. Signed Jadwiga Kaminska.”

OR

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Sources

The Nuremberg Project.